Watching a child die from afar

I want to direct you to the blog of a friend. The blog is My Little Warrior Princess and I have to warn you that the most recent posts are not easy reading.

You see, the posts since December 4, 2012 are about little Aziza who became very sick, very suddenly and passed away.

Aziza was 6. She lived with Down Syndrome, was on the autism spectrum, was non-verbal and had a number of health issues that I cannot fully comprehend.

More than all of those things, Aziza was a little girl, full of life, who loved and was loved.

I met Aziza only once and that meeting occurred on a very special, fun-filled weekend with my twins and partner. I read the posts from my friend and saw the Facebook updates about her ups and downs over the last few months. Aziza came across as a vibrant little girl who couldn’t be kept down, much like her mom.

When the first Facebook update popped up that something was really wrong, it was shocking to see how quickly it all unfolded. One day she had a stomach bug and the next, she had undergone emergency surgery.

I was stunned to watch through the lens of Facebook and blog posts about the child of a friend pass so quickly. The last day of her life was filled with such pain; not just hers, but those who loved her. Her last day also witnessed a village strengthen around my friend, fueled by grief, support, love and a desire to act. Aziza’s village was large and strong–is still large and strong.

Because Aziza was non-verbal, on the spectrum and close in age to my twins, I couldn’t help but think of my kids while watching Aziza slip away. There are a lot of positive things to say about how Facebook and all social media can bring us together, but watching the updates about Aziza’s final day, I feel very along and numb. I couldn’t go home and hug my kids to make myself feel better or to reassure myself that they were safe and healthy.

The numbness was in part a recognition that children are frail and we cannot do everything to protect them. I had long convinced myself that I could always keep my children safe and have been disabused of such notions on several occasions in the last couple of years. I imagined a non-verbal child not being able to communicate what was happening and saw my son struggling with his vocabulary in the same situation. Not simply unable to communicate what he was feeling in a way that could be understood, but also not being able to reassure him.

Parents need to feel that they can protect their children. It is the way humans are wired. Even when it is not our own child, we wish to protect them.

Once her village realized that they could no longer protect Aziza her village rallied around the family and found tangible and intangible ways to respond. Across the world, people lit candles for Aziza and posted wonderful memorial messages, while friends, family and classmates in her hometown decorated her casket.

There is a lot of horror in going to a child’s funeral. Seeing a casket with names written on in beautiful colours, drawings and stick-on jewels takes some of that horror away.

Not only will a village pray with you, hope for the best and help you up. It will also give you a reason to smile.

To see that beautifully decorated casket, please take a peek here



3 thoughts on “Watching a child die from afar

  1. Dear Red headed dad, your story about Aziza was beautiful. I too knew Aziza and she was a beautiful little girl, I knew her before she was adopted. Please believe me when I say that child wanted for nothing. The very fact that she was in the home she was in was lucky for all involved. I believe I read somewhere that her Autism went unnoticed. Perhaps that second Mom that loved her so much was too busy just trying to keep her going day to day! I do know that if she could have she would have kept her! I also know that she has been given a bad rap……. Do you know how that big hearted woman found out Aziza had passed? The newspaper. She still believes everything happened for a reason. That beautiful Aziza was meant for this journey and only god knows why she was put into each mothers lives for a reason.


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